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How to make a simple song sound more interesting?


(@canvas01)
New Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1
Topic starter  

I'm hoping you guys can give me advice on how to make a simple 3 or 4 chord song sound interesting on solo acoustic. For instance A Pair of Brown Eyes by the Pogues is a fantastic 3 chord song and sounds great in a band format, but when it is stripped down to just a guitar it gets a little boring / repetitive. What can a guitarist do to spice songs like these up a bit?


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(@jerboa)
Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 79
 

I'm by no means an expert. In fact I'm wrong more than right!

but...have you looked at Dave's lessons(on this site)? The Songs for Beginners and Intermediates are all exactly what you are asking. He takes a song, and works it up for a solo guitarist.

The songs themselves might not be what you want, but he goes through his thought process with each song as well. (Geared, of course, toward teaching a particular point, and using that song as the vehicle)

There are two kinds of people in this world:
Those who think there are two kinds of people in this world, and those who don't


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(@slejhamer)
Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3297
 

Greetings canvas01 from another long-time Pogues fan!

Jerboa offers good advice. Be sure to check out the lessons on creating "chord melody" arrangements. I think that's what you're looking for. Some starters:

https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/jolly-old-saint-nicholas/
https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/birth-of-a-chord-melody/
https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/after-the-gold-rush/

"Everybody got to elevate from the norm."


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(@jasonrunguitar)
Reputable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 273
 

Definately start with the lessons. They're a fantastic resource just riddled with little gems of ideas.

Other than that, once you get the song solidly under your fingers, just try messing around and having some fun. Maybe set up and resolve a suspension (instead of just playing |D---|A---| try something like |D---|Asus4-A-|), add a walking bass-line (definitely look at the lessons for this one e.g. Margaritaville), or mix up the strumming patten by throwing in some plam slaps or doing different patterns to differentiate the verses from the refrains. As mentioned above, a lot of the lessons also work on chord-melogy (e.g. Fields of Gold) which is another tasty ingredient for spicing up your musical cuisine, especially when you're taking something that was originally played with however many pieces and putting it on solo guitar. Once you see how it's done from Dave's lessons, try stealing licks/riffs from other instruments and putting on the top strings in the chord progression to get that cool chord-melody style (easier said than done, I know; I still haven't mastered it yet, but I think it's worth the effort). Oooh, and as for breaking up the monotony, I'm always fan of a well-placed key-change, even if it wasn't in the original song

-Jason
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
To those about to rock, we salute you!
http://www.soundclick.com/jasonwittenbach


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(@hawkfoggy)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 161
 

Sorry if i sound repetitive but also try insead of just strumming during the verses, try picking the chord. also, if you want to kind wake people up, try swiching from the normal chord to the octave of all the notes. i do worshipat a youth group and i kow the meaning of boring chord progressions. also, like that one dude said before mea, add suspended notes and 7's when it's apropriate and try hammering on those notes for a little bit of a folksy feel. i think that makes it sound soulful too!

"I'm as free as a bird now. And this bird you can not change" Free Bird, By: Lynyrd Skynyrd
GIT SNAKE BIT!!!
stay safe


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(@kevin72790)
Prominent Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 840
 

Sorry if i sound repetitive but also try insead of just strumming during the verses, try picking the chord. also, if you want to kind wake people up, try swiching from the normal chord to the octave of all the notes. i do worshipat a youth group and i kow the meaning of boring chord progressions. also, like that one dude said before mea, add suspended notes and 7's when it's apropriate and try hammering on those notes for a little bit of a folksy feel. i think that makes it sound soulful too!
Agreed with everyones post, and this one. I use 7's a lot in my playing to add interest...for myself atleast. :)

Also another thing that'll add interest is to slide up and down the fretboard or something. Maybe slide into an A-chord or something. This wouldn't work on all songs though.


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(@denny)
Reputable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 452
 

Sometimes little things like hammer-on's and pull-off's can really add substance to a song. Some slides and alternating bass lines spice it up without really changing the integrity of the tune.

Denny


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

Rhythm and Dynamics!

Chord-Melody is great, though you won't be able to apply it to every song; and it may take a while to learn. Little flourishes such as sus4, slide-ups, minor to major 3rds, extended chords and altered chords are good and eventually become second nature. But the simplest (okay, maybe not so simple for a noob) things to alter and embellish are the rhythm and dynamics, especially for a mainly strummed piece. Everybody naturally grooves on the rhythm. And they also hear dynamics -- whether the accented chord or fully modulated verse. You may be able to make someone with an appreciation for melody smile with a clever grace note or tension-resolution bit, but you will grab the whole crowd if you can master rhythm and dynamics and use them as well as all these other suggestions.

What to practice? Try different strumming styles -- or even overall rhythm styles. Experiment with changing the rhythm to back-beat, or ska [ignore those jokes], reggae, waltz, cut time, double time ... Sound corny? It's been done by the best. For dynamics, learn to play as soft as you can and slowly build volume, quickly build volume, work and accenting chords and notes just as if you would accent them if sung.

Some masters of guitar rhythm and dynamics: Richie Havens, Pete Townshend, Jeff Beck, any good Gypsy Jazz (Django dammit!) or Flamenco player (of course), Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, BB, Malcolm Young, Bob Marley, David Byrne (listen to Psychokiller!), Al Dimeola ...

-=tension & release=-


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(@rickyraveon)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 9
 

WAH

OK, really, your picking, strumming & palm muting style can really add a dimension to an otherwise mundane melody. Of course, alternate chord voicing, or maybe using a capo would add some character. There are lots of ways to make a song your own. Just experiment a bit. Asking this type of question is a good sign that you want to learn how to do things creatively. There are lots of good suggestions in this thread already, let's hear some more.


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(@bennettp)
Active Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 19
 

I know what I do a lot is pick the root note, and kinda' syncopate it then play the full chord, so maybe like
root - root - chord - root or root - chord - chord - root.
Try pickin' just the low note of the chord, also as stated above, try switching from the regular chord to a 7th chord mid-way through. That's always a nice touch.
Just keep tryin', you'll find somethin' to do. ;)
Added: Also if it's a more upbeat song, try muting all the strings and strumming them, if you do a combination of root notes and chords and mute-strumming or what-not, you can get some really neat rhythms going, of course the muting works best if you use a lot of barre chords as I do.

-Bennett


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